Netherlands: The Ever Persistent Dutch Tipple


Every wine producer knows that climate is one of the main factors that can affect the quality of grapes. Because of this, a country’s weather conditions are a major consideration in determining the types of wine that can be produced. Such is also the reason why wine production is truly challenging in a country like the Netherlands. A long, warm summer is the ideal weather needed to grow grapes that have balanced levels of acids and sugars, but the Netherlands is simply too cool and damp, preventing it from highly producing a wide variety of wines.

Despite this hurdle, however, the wine market in this western European country is still alive and thriving simply because the Dutch interest in it is too strong that even weather cannot stop it. Over the centuries, the Dutch influence on European wine has been significant, thanks to the country’s geographic location and success at being a prime merchant port across the continent.

The start of the Dutch wine trade

It all goes back to the 17th century, when the Dutch revolted against King Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. When the Portuguese, the main trader of spices at that time, joined forces with the Spanish and turned to German, Spanish, and Italian firms to distribute goods, the Dutch were left out of the trade.

This then resulted in higher demand and prices for spices, driving the Dutch to send out merchant fleets to continue the trade despite the risks. Eventually, the Dutch managed to prevent the Spanish from accessing supplies in the Belgian city of Antwerp, which used to be the Portuguese’s main distribution center, by closing river access. Because there were no other access points, the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam became the new trade centers, and the Dutch merchant fleets grew to 10,000 ships by the end of the Eight Years’ War.

With the growing fleets, the Dutch started shipping a wide range of wines, including Bordeaux, Malaga, Marsala, Burgundy, Greek, and Rhine. Cheap wine from France was also traded, as well as distilled spirits and supplies. Swedish copper was acquired while the Armagnac and Cognac forests were utilized to make stills.

The Rhine River became significant for wine logistics because it was near Rotterdam, which turned into the main port of wine trading. The river was also the reason why sweet, white wines were famous at that time. The Thirty Years’ War, however, started and destroyed the Rhineland, affecting the trade and production of red grapes. This, though, did not stop Dutch farmers from growing white grapes instead. They also made use of sulfur, so that the wine would stabilize and not finish fermentation.

Ever since, the Dutch has become a key player in today’s market. Some people may not notice it but the European wine lifestyle would not be complete without them.

The Dutch Influence

The Netherlands’ strategic geographic location and entrepreneurial expertise were what made the Dutch influential in the European wine market despite the country’s inability to produce significant amounts of vino. Also, thanks to the high number of Dutch wine consumers, the country has become a key export market for French, German, and other European wines.

The city of Rotterdam consistently sees the likes of Baden, Alsace, Nahe, and Pfalz because it is strategically located near the rivers of Scheldt, Meuse, and Rhine. Being the meeting point of these rivers, the city had been the best logical point for trade.

Moreover, the Dutch were responsible for turning the French region of Medoc into one of the world’s finest terroirs. They drained the peninsula, which used to be filled with marshes and pine forests, to give way to the production of Latour, Margaux, and Mouton, among others. The wines coming from Medoc became France’s finest and most expensive. The Netherlands also owned a considerable share in the Medoc market, boosting the wine region’s ranking and classification.

Popular Wines and Current Production

With the country’s cool climate, wine producers had to adjust and decide which types of wine to make. There are about 150 commercial vineyards in the Netherlands, most are located in Limburg and Gelderland because of their sandy and hilly soil. Around 900,000 liters of red and white wines are produced locally. Due to the climate, growers are not able to produce high quality traditional grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. So, they turned to the production of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay, Cabernet Blanc, Cabernet Cantor, and Pinotin, all of which can be grown in cold weather.

Though not producing wine collections as expansive as some of the other European nations, the Dutch surely know their way into every connoisseur’s wine cellar. With every renownedwine storage facility in the world, there is almost always a touch of Dutch in it.